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Boosting the Signal

So, yesterday I talked a little bit about the fact that the biggest help that anyone can provide to my “Stickers by Stan!” Kicstarter is to spread the word and share the link. And a whole lot of you did. So before I write anything else . . .

THANK YOU!!!!

I continue to be flabbergasted by the quick and enthusiastic backing that you all have given me, and will strive to prove myself worthy of so much support and positive energy.

As I push through this final week of the fund drive, I’ve been giving some thought as to where to spend the most of my energy. I mean, it’s fine for me to just blast out announcements and such for as far as my digital lungs will send them . . . but it’s BETTER for me to focus that energy talking directly to groups of folks that have a predisposition to being INTERESTED in stickers, cartoony clip-art, and such.

Likewise, if you know anyone who is interested in these things, it’s ESPECIALLY helpful for me if you make sure that THEY know about my little project. (Or if you know a group that you think _I_ should be approaching, send that info on to me and I’ll get right on it!)

Anyway, here are the groups I’ve identified for special attention.

PARENTS (especially GAMER PARENTS)
It sounds obvious, but although kids are the ones who love stickers, it’s PARENTS who make the buying decisions. So it’s important for me to get the word out to folks who are looking for inexpensive gifts, unique to get for their kids the holidays. These stickers (and coloring book) won’t be available in stores or other online venues (not in time for this gift giving season, anyway). My Kickstarter is a way that they can get something special, that other kids won’t have. And this is even more so if the parents are gamers who are looking for gamer-related presents to make their kids feel like they’re part of the hobby.

“MOMMY BLOGGERS”
Really, this is a sub-set of the “Parents” category . . . but it’s a VERY IMPORTANT sub-set. For those who don’t know, “mommy bloggers” is a non-pejorative term for parents (mostly moms) who have blogs or dedicated websites that focus on presenting material that will be of interest to other parents. Basically, these blogs are hubs for parents who are looking for interesting things—particularly around the holidays, things that will make for good gifts that are different from the usual wares to be found in every Toys’R’Us and Amazon Wish List. Basically, getting a good mention on one of these sites is the equivalent of making thousands of direct contacts with individual parents.

SCRAPBOOKERS and other CRAFTY DECORATORS
Stickers aren’t just for kids. I know that because _I_ still love stickers and so do many of my friends. But most of us just get them for novelty’s sake, rarely making actual USE out of them. But my friends who are into scrapbooking and other cozy crafting activities actually DO use them . . . and they’re always on the lookout for unusual stickers, particularly ones that synch up with their other hobbies (like fantasy fiction and gaming).

If you have strong connections into any of these groups, and you don’t mind putting in a good word for me and my project, I’d be even more grateful than before. Or, since you’ve got better things to do with your time than go around shilling for my projects, if you could just make an introduction for me . . . I’d STILL be super grateful.

There’s less than a week left in this Kickstarter, so I’ve got to make every connection count!

I Don’t Want Your Money

It might seem like a strange thing for someone running a Kickstarter to say, but if you’re here at my blog reading this it’s absolutely TRUE.

Look, I created the “Stickers by Stan!” Kickstarter because I believe in the project—I believe that there’s an audience for it, and I hope that it FINDS that audience. But I know that some people feel pressure to contribute to projects that their friends launch, so let me say this as plainly as I can . . . I DIDN’T create this Kickstarter as a way to strong arm my friends into tossing a few bucks my way. So unless the sticker/clip art/coloring book rewards actually appeal to you, PLEASE don’t feel any pressure to become a backer. The truth is, if you want to help me in this endeavor, there’s a BETTER way to do it than pledging money.

The most valuable thing when running a Kickstarter, more valuable than ANY individual contribution, is getting folks to share the link to the campaign page as far and wide as possible.

I do a pretty good job of making my voice, my projects, and my goals known to the family, friends, fans, and interested onlookers who follow me in various sites and media. But success in an endeavor like this requires getting attention and support from people BEYOND the usual range of my voice . . . putting “Stickers by Stan!” in front of people who have no idea who I am. And THAT’S something that YOU, my friends, can do.

So if you want to help with my Kickstarter, the very BEST way you can do that is to share the link through Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, or any other venue you’ve got. Anyone who takes the time and makes the effort to do that will have earned my gratitude in abundance. And if you want to be of particular help, wait a few days and share the link AGAIN.

If you really DO want stickers (for yourselves, your kids, or to give as presents), then I will happily take your pledges, too. But seriously . . . I’m NOT looking for your money.

It’s Kickstarter Time!

The Thanksgiving holiday last week was, as some may remember, my favorite holiday of the year. And I certainly have ample things to be thankful for—family, friends, health, joy in my work, success in my chosen field, just to name a handful. But this year I had something else to be especially thankful for . . . and I’ve been remiss in not talking about it here. At this very moment I’m thankful for the success that my current Kickstarter project is enjoying!

What’s that? You didn’t know I was even HAVING a Kickstarter at the moment?

Yeah, that’s my fault. It started last Monday, and I haven’t spent as much time promoting it as I should (a cardinal sin when it comes to Kickstarter). But rather than bemoan the week I’ve missed out on, I’m going to focus on the week ahead . . . because this is the FINAL WEEK of the campaign!

My project is called “Stickers by Stan!” and, not surprisingly, it’s all about taking some of my cartoon art and producing it in the form of stickers. Here’s the pitch video:

I’ve been exceedingly lucky in that, despite my flying in the face of every best practice, the project has ALREADY reached its funding goal (in point of fact, it funded in less than three hours) AND has hit the first two stretch goals. That doesn’t happen without a lot of support from a lot of wonderful folks . . . and I’m honored to know that’s the case for me.

So here I am with just ONE WEEK left in the drive, and I plan to make the most of it. If this sort of naked promotion bugs you, I can only say two things: 1) Sorry, and 2) It’ll only be for one week. Because after that, the drive is done. (Now I’m sounding like an NPR station!)

Tomorrow I’ll talk a bit about how YOU can help . . . and here’s a spoiler, I’m NOT going to be begging for you to give me money!

Stan! on Sale — Consultations

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, due to most of my planned work for November and December having been mothballed (details can be found here), I’ve decided to have try to make up at least some of the income shortfall by having a sale on my work. Over the last couple of days I announced special pricing on my drawing and writing. Today I do the same for my consulting services.

HERE’S THE DEAL
One of the benefits of having been successful in the worlds of writing, game design, publishing, and illustration is having gained a broad range of experience . . . and being able to share that with friends and colleagues.

Most often, I do this as a courtesy (that’s what you DO for friends and colleagues), but sometimes I’m approached by folks I don’t know, or who are new to the industry. Even then, in a casual setting, I’m more than happy to share my thoughts casually . . . but when someone wants detailed assessments, advice, or commentary, THAT’S when I hang out my “professional consultant” shingle.

I can’t give you a guaranteed way to succeed in your projects. But I can use my experience as a writer, game designer, creative director, art director, and production manager give you a very well rounded professional opinion of your project, concept, or design. Or I can simply act as a sounding board and help you brainstorm way to take your concept and turn it into an actionable project. Plus, I’ve been a central part of three successful Kickstarter campaigns, so I can give you my opinions in that realm, too.

This service isn’t for everyone. In the end, all I’m offering is to listen to (or review) your concepts and give you my opinions on how to improve them, or tell you what sorts of things I would do (or have done) in similar situations. BUT for some people that can be an invaluable aid.

I can’t say how much this service is worth to you . . . but I CAN tell you how much my time is worth to me. And, indeed, as part of the Stan! Sale, I’m lowering that cost significantly.

CONSUTATION
* 1 Hour phone/tele-conference—(reg. $100)—SALE PRICE $50
* Manuscript Review— varies by assignment details

As with so much in business, there is generally room for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to come to me with a proposal. And please post a comment or contact me (through email, Facebook, or Twitter) if you have any questions.

Also, feel free to spread this info around … indeed, PLEASE DO! The more people know about this sale, the more likely it is to generate work.

Stan! on Sale — Writing

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, due to most of my planned work for November and December having been mothballed (details can be found here), I’ve decided to have try to make up at least some of the income shortfall by having a sale on my work. Yesterday I announced special pricing on my drawing services. Today I do the same for my writing services.

HERE’S THE DEAL
Below I’m going to spell out what my normal prices are for different types of writing assignments, and what my sale prices are. The catch is that in order to get the sale price, you have to pay up front.

Since I’m hoping to book a fair amount of work this way, you have to understand that it may not be possible for me to do the work immediately . . . at the very least, I’ll have to set up a queue, PLUS I do have a few other commitments (already scheduled full-price freelance work which will have to take priority). So if you have a specific deadline that must be met, let me know ahead of time, and I’ll let you know whether or not I can commit to meeting it. I DO plan to work through the assignments as quickly as I can because, if nothing else, I’m starting to book NEW work to do in 2015.

Also, the amount of time it will take me to do any RPG related work will vary depending on how familiar I am with the game system in question. So, really, it’s a good idea to send me a query note BEFORE figuring this as a done deal. That having been said, I play and am comfortable designing for many different game systems . . . so chances are good that we can work something out.

I know that money up front is asking a lot in the trust department. And I fully accept that such a deal is not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you prefer you can book using the regular method—setting up a firm schedule for completion of your project, and paying upon completion (or split partial payments, depending on the size of the assignment) . . . but that would have to be done at the full-price rates.

But if getting a bargain price is the most important thing for you, then here’s what I’ve got to offer.

ESSAYS
* Guest Blog (~1,000 words)—(reg. $150)—SALE PRICE $75
* Short Subject (~3,000 words)—(reg. $400)—SALE PRICE $200
* Feature Article (~5,000 words)—(reg. $600)—SALE PRICE $300

RPG ADVENTURE DESIGN
* Single Encounter (~2,000 words)—(reg. $500)—SALE PRICE $300
* Side Trek (~5,000 words)—(reg. $800)—SALE PRICE $400
* Short Adventure (~10,000 words)—(reg. $1,250)—SALE PRICE $800
* NPC Creation (including full-figure color illustration)—(reg. $200)—SALE PRICE $100

FICTION
* Micro-Fiction (up to 2,000 words)—(reg. $200)—SALE PRICE $100
* Short Story (up to 10,000 words)—(reg. $1,000)—SALE PRICE $700
* Novelette (up to 25,000 words)—(reg. $3,000)—SALE PRICE $2,000
* Longer Fiction—varies by assignment details

As with so much in business, there is generally room for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to come to me with a proposal. And please post a comment or contact me (through email, Facebook, or Twitter) if you have any questions.

Also, feel free to spread this info around … indeed, PLEASE DO! The more people know about this sale, the more likely it is to generate work.

Stan! on Sale — Artwork

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, due to most of my planned work for November and December having been mothballed (details can be found here), I’ve decided to have try to make up at least some of the income shortfall by having a sale on my work. Part one of that is to announce some special pricing on my drawing services.

HERE’S THE DEAL
Below I’m going to spell out what my normal prices are for different types of drawing assignments, and what my sale prices are. The catch is that in order to get the sale price, you have to pay up front.

Since I’m hoping to book a fair amount of work this way, you have to understand that it may not be possible for me to do the work immediately . . at the very least, I’ll have to set up a queue, PLUS I do have a few other commitments (already scheduled full-price freelance work which will have to take priority). So if you have a specific deadline that must be met, let me know ahead of time, and I’ll let you know whether or not I can commit to meeting it. I DO plan to work through the assignments as quickly as I can because, if nothing else, I’m starting to book NEW work to do in 2015.

I know that money up front is asking a lot in the trust department. And I fully accept that such a deal is not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you prefer you can book using the regular method—setting up a firm schedule for completion of your project, and paying upon completion (or split partial payments, depending on the size of the assignment) . . . but that would have to be done at the full-price rates.

But if getting a bargain price is the most important thing for you, then here’s what I’ve got to offer.

CHARACTER DESIGN (No Background)
* Single Head & Shoulders—(reg. $30 color/$20 b&w)—SALE PRICE $20 color or b&w
* Single Full Figure—(reg. $50 color/$30 b&w)—SALE PRICE $30 color/$25 b&w
* Pair of Full Figures—(reg. $80 color/$40 b&w)—SALE PRICE $60 color/$30 b&w

ILLUSTRATION (Scene with Background)
* Spot Illo—(reg. $20)—SALE PRICE $10
* Quarter-Page—(reg. $50 color/$25 b&w)—SALE PRICE $25 color or b&w
* Half-Page—(reg. $100 color/$50 b&w)—SALE PRICE $50 color/$30 b&w
* Full-Page—(reg. $200 color/$100 b&w)—SALE PRICE $100 color/$60 b&w

CARICATURE (based on photo)
* Head & Shoulders—(reg. $25)—SALE PRICE $15
* Full Figure—(reg. $40)—SALE PRICE $25

COMICS (based on your script)
* Single Panel—(reg. $100 color/$50 b&w)—SALE PRICE $50 color/$30 b&w
* Strip (3–4 panels)—(reg. $150 color/$75 b&w)—SALE PRICE $100 color/$50 b&w
* Full Page (up to 9 panels)—(reg. $300 color/$150 b&w)—SALE PRICE $150 color/$100 b&w

As with so much in business, there is generally room for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to come to me with a proposal. And please post a comment or contact me (through email, Facebook, or Twitter) if you have any questions.

Also, feel free to spread this info around … indeed, PLEASE DO! The more people know about this sale, the more likely it is to generate work.

Next Kickstarter Re-Started

A couple of weeks back I made a post saying that I’m planning to launch a new Kickstarter campaign in the near future, one that would focus on new stories for Dr. Symm (the World’s Smartest Monkey). Well, one of these facts has changed . . . and I’m still planning on launching a Kickstarter. So there are two obvious questions.

WHY ARE YOU DITCHING DR. SYMM?
I’m not “ditching” Dr. Symm . . . I’ve just decided that another project is a BETTER fit for me to Kickstart in the short term.

I was deep in the process of Kickstarter planning—lots of notes, a few spreadsheets, a bar graph or two, and pages upon pages of doodles and other bits of creative detritus. As I explored some of the options for related and supporting products (things like post cards, art prints, lapel pins, etc.) I came across an option that seemed perfect, not just for supporting Dr. Symm, but also for other projects, too.

I jotted down some notes on ways that I might explore this new option as a stand-alone project after the Dr. Symm fundraising was through and went back to my planning. But the more I thought about it, the more possibilities came to mind. Eventually I realized that this was more than just a “fun follow-up” idea . . . it was a project that had the same kind of scope as what I was thinking about for Dr. Symm AND had the potential to appeal to an even broader audience. Best of all, it required significantly less work to get it into a launch-ready state. (Allow me to remain mysterious about the details for just a little bit longer, I’ll give them below, I promise.)

After mulling all this over for a day or so, it seemed obvious to me that the SMART thing to do was to set Dr. Symm aside and focus on this other project. And after mulling it over for another day, I realized that it was ALSO what I WANTED to do.

Dr. Symm is a character I’ve been working with off and on for about 15 years, and I was very excited to be prepping him for a big new project. I have no shortage of ideas for his continuing adventures, and the truth is that I’m continuing to develop them, even as I put the fundraising drive on the back burner for the time being. Ultimately, should this new project go well, it will put me in an even stronger position to promote and launch the Dr. Symm project.

So, while Dr. Symm is no longer going to be the focus of my next Kicktstarter, I’m NOT abandoning him. In fact, I think it’s highly likely that you’ll see me do Symm-related fundraising sometime in 2015.

WHAT WILL THE NEW KICKSTARTER ACTUALLY FOCUS ON?
So what is this miracle project that could pull me away from a character I’ve been pondering for more than a decade? What is this concept so wonderful that I couldn’t resist its siren call?

I’ll tell you . . . but I’m afraid it will sound silly. Like in the movie “The Graduate,” where the guest at Benjamin’s graduation party pulls him aside and says, “I just have one word for you—plastics! Promise me you’ll think about it.” But the project I’m going to pursue ALSO can be described in just one word . . . .

Stickers!

As I said above, this all started when I was looking for extras to use to bolster a different project. Thinking about other projects I backed through Kickstarter, I remembered that Cartozia Tales had included a small sheet of sticker with one of the issues . . . and it just so happened that social media had recently been placing ads for a service that prints stickers into nearly ever screen I opened . . . and I knew that Dr. Symm, should the funding succeed, would generate a bunch of art that would be suitable for that kind of treatment.

It would be fun, I thought, to have a sheet of Dr. Symm stickers. That’s the kind of thing that the target audience would love. (Kids, in case you didn’t know, love stickers the way steampunk cosplayers love goggles festooned with clockwork gears.) As I was mulling this over, I immediately thought of an existing set of illustrations I had in my archive that would also make a good sheet of stickers. Then I thought of another set . . . and had an idea for another set that I could put together pretty easily. And while I was thinking of more and more sets, a friend posted about how her daughter and son were fighting over a page of return address stickers because . . . well . . . simply because they WERE stickers.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized not just what a good idea producing stickers was, but also how well it fit into to the artwork I’ve proven I CAN and WILL produce no matter what . . . small, stand-alone figures that are equally nerdy and cute. And suddenly I realized that over the course of almost a week, all the time I HAD been devoting to Dr. Symm had been taken over by thoughts, research, and planning for producing stickers. THAT was the thing that finally clicked it over in my brain. With all that’s involved in running a Kickstarter (even a brief, low-target one), if it’s not focused on the one thing that is most all-consuming in your mind, then you’re in trouble on numerous fronts.

So I’m working up details, getting samples from manufacturers, and preparing to HOPEFULLY put together a Kickstarter that will: a) Run for only 10–15 days, b) Have a low threshold for success, c) Fund AND reach a few stretch goals PROFITABLY, d) Appeal to my existing fans AND a new audience in the sticker-loving world, and e) Open up the possibilities for ongoing business.

“Ongoing?” you ask. YES. At the same time I’m putting together the Kickstarter plans, I’m ALSO exploring the possibilities for an ongoing sticker-based Patreon project! Honestly, if I can get just a few hundred people interested, it should be a pretty strong success.

Stickers . . . Promise me you’ll think about it.

The Enemy Is Me

“No plan,” they say, “survives contact with the enemy” . . . and sometimes the enemy is me.

Earlier in the month I made a post about some recent setbacks I’ve had on professionally, and my short-term plans for revving things up and (hopefully) getting them back on track. These included a “sale” on some of my professional services and an upcoming Kickstarter campaign . . . and I promised more details in the week ahead. That was last week and, as you may have noticed, there were a grand total of ZERO updated from me during that time.

What happened? As luck would have it, I had a couple of short term assignments come up, and I spent the week working on them. Not enough to change the general course that things are going, but enough to sideline my immediate activities (like updating my blog and giving out the details I’d promised).

Also, as I began preparing information, budgets, and schedules for my Kickstarter, which I’d gone so far as to announce the topic for, I realized that another idea I’ve been noodling around on would make a much BETTER choice for a short-term project . . . and, after weighing my options, I decided that the best thing to do would be to make THAT the Kickstarter I launch in (hopefully) the next few weeks.

So, yeah. Sorry for getting you all worked up (to a greater or lesser degree) and then leave you hanging . . . and thank you for those who have checked in via Facebook or Twitter or email to say that you WANTED to support my efforts, and that you were afraid you’d somehow missed the boat.

You didn’t miss the boat. The boat was just delayed. And I’m getting ready for boarding soon (to painfully stretch that metaphor). My new, current, up to the minute (for now) plans are:

* Post an update about my Kickstarter plans on Tuesday.
* Post details of my “Stan! Sale” over the course of updates on Wed–Fri.
* Stay on target . . . or make sure I announce if the targets shift again.

So thank you again simply for caring. Really, that means more to me than anything else!

Weird Dreams

Generally, I have a difficult time remembering my dreams. At best, I wake up with a vague feeling related to whatever tale my subconscious was spinning for me. But over the past week or so I’ve had a few dreams that have stuck with me even after waking . . . and they’ve been a little weird.

Unfortunately, one of them slipped away from my waking brain even now as I was preparing to write about it (yeah . . . they’re THAT slippery). But another has been repeating in slight variations, so it’s easier to get hold of.

The basic event in these dreams is that I have been accused of something terrible that I did not do. Sometimes it’s criminal, and I’m under investigation, sometimes it’s just causing a big problem among friends, but no matter the details, it is clear in the dream that I am wholly innocent . . . I just have to PROVE it!

Helping me to do this is an innate ability (super power?) to jump back exactly 2 hours in time. (To be clear, this is only in the dream . . . I don’t REALLY have this power . . . y’know, in case you were confused on that point.)

In the dreams, it’s well past the 2 hour point for me to undo whatever it is I’m being accused of, but I CAN use the power to make my arguments more clearly and arrange for proof that is suddenly and unexpectedly demanded. However, it’s still an incremental improvement. I’m slowly moving opinion in my favor . . . but each misstep I make, or each time new “evidence” is introduced, it hurts my credibility and I have to jump back in time again to clear it up.

The dreams play out almost like video games, where I’m trying to align all of the right information and evidence to prove my innocence . . . but every time I get close a new problem appears in my way.

I’ve had these dreams three times this past week. More, actually, because I know I’ve woken up in the middle of them on a number of occasions and then fallen back into the SAME dream upon getting back to sleep. I have no good real-life literal interpretation for them. There isn’t anything I’m feeling guilty about, or being accused of (that I know about, anyway) . . . and I don’t have any situation where I feel I’m having to prove myself over and over (unless you count my ongoing job hunt).

The nice thing is, even though these are stressful situations in the dreams, I don’t waken with that stress. Or, if I do feel stress, it’s the “playing a video game that you just can’t beat” stress, and not the “my life is being threatened” kind.

Usagi and Me

I like comics. That probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this. I’ve read them since I was a kid, collected them since I was a teen, and have drawn them semi- and fully professionally for more than 30 years. I’ve got box loads of comics in plastic sleeves, and bookcases full of comic collections all over my home. I’ve got prints and original art on my walls, patches and stickers on my belongings, and files of digital images on my computers. They range from mid-20th-century comic strips to silver-age comic books to collections of 21st-century webcomics, and vary in subject from biography to history to fantasy and sci-fi. I have A LOT of comics! But if a crazed super-villain ever told me that I could only ever read one title for the rest of my life, I could make that call in a split second without any hesitation or doubt . . .

. . . Usagi Yojimbo!

Stan Sakai’s brilliant anthropomorphic tale of a 16th-century Japan as seen through the eyes of a wandering masterless samurai is, in my opinion, a nearly perfect thing.

I first discovered Usagi Yojimbo in 1985 with the second ever tale—a back-up story in issue #3 of Albedo Anthropomorphics—and I don’t think I’ve missed an issue or appearance since. I’ve bought every issue, from series published by three different companies, plus every collected volume . . . in both hardcover and paperback.

I think it’s safe to say that I own just about every Usagi Yojimbo story . . . and I own at least three printings of most of them.

So it should surprise no one that as a 50th birthday present, I treated myself to the hardcover version The Usagi Yojimbo Saga, vol. 1, which collects three of the previous books into an omnibus edition. More than 600 pages of comics that I now own in the FOURTH time . . . and I couldn’t be happier.